Talking one-on-one with the Mediator
Mediation is a dynamic process which the Mediator should tailor to the specific needs of the parties and the issues in dispute.
As a participant in a family mediation, you should look forward to a number of one-on-one interactions with the Mediator, both before the mediation sessions begin and during the sessions.
To begin with, the Mediator should have a one-on-one meeting with each of the parties, to screen them, to ensure that the dispute is appropriate for family mediation and that the parties are going to sit at the mediation table without feeling pressured to do so or concerned what happens if they express their positions on the various issues. While some mediators believe screening is unnecessary, I am a strong proponent of this important step - it’s a two-way “interview” of sorts - the Mediator learns about the issues, the party in front of them and the relationship dynamic he/she is likely to encounter during the mediation sessions. The party being interviewed/screened gets an opportunity to meet the Mediator, talk to them freely, ask questions and share any information they wish, in a completely confidential context. This aspect of confidentiality is fundamental to this early part of the mediation process.
During the mediation sessions, the Mediator may decide to “caucus” with the parties as well, meaning, meet with each, on-on-one, to address any issues. Each of the parties should also feel completely comfortable asking to speak to the Mediator one-on-one.
Overall, the family mediation process should be one to which the parties, both and each of them, come freely and voluntarily. It needs to proceed in a manner which enhances the balance of bargaining power - so that neither party feels overwhelmed, shut down or unheard.